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Moon formed from pulverized Earth mantle

Scientists have long thought that the moon was formed when an impactor crashed into Earth, some 100 million years after the planet’s formation. But details of this collision, and how the moon formed in its aftermath, remain puzzling. Now, researchers have found new potassium isotopic evidence that suggests the moon condensed from a superheated cloud of Earth’s mantle material after an extremely violent collision vaporized the impactor and much of the proto-Earth.
 

23 Jan 2017

Downgrading the Great Dying

The end-Permian extinction, nicknamed the “Great Dying,” is thought to be the deadliest mass extinction in Earth’s history. Many textbooks claim that up to 96 percent of marine life died out during this event, but a new study suggests this cataclysmic number has been overestimated.
 

23 Jan 2017

Road salt may be a larger problem for lakes than thought

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that approximately 30 million tons of road salt were applied to U.S. roads during 2015 to speed up the melting of snow and ice. Recently, scientists have observed increasing impacts on ecosystems and water quality linked to its application. New research, for example, finds that road salt influx is geochemically disrupting the ecosystem health of urban lakes in Michigan, and it may even lead to rising methane emissions from the lakes.

19 Jan 2017

Scientists map U.S. geoelectric hazards

During solar storms, electrons and protons collide with Earth’s atmosphere, disrupting the geomagnetic field and sometimes creating the flashing waves of colorful light in the night sky we know as auroras. But these same storms — if strong enough — have the potential to severely damage power grids.
 

19 Jan 2017

Monkeys smash stone tool theories

Archaeologists have long credited stone flakes found at dig sites to tool-making hominins, but observations of wild capuchin monkeys in Brazil breaking stones may put an end to the assumption that all stone flakes were made by humans and their ancestors.

18 Jan 2017

Chaco Canyon: Garden of Eden or salty-soiled pilgrimage site?

The remains of elaborate stone houses, some with hundreds of rooms, and other structures scattered throughout New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon attest to advanced settlements built there by ancestral Puebloans between A.D. 800 and 1250. But how these peoples subsisted amid the arid climate and seemingly infertile ground of the canyon has long puzzled scientists. In a new study, researchers suggest that Chaco Canyon’s salty desert soils may have supported ample agriculture after all.

17 Jan 2017

Tornadic storms fed by perfect spirals

Sometimes, large thunderstorms called supercells spawn tornadoes; sometimes they don’t. Predicting whether supercell drafts will spiral into a tornado is tricky, with false-alarm rates running as high as 75 percent. In a new study using helium balloons to study tornadogenesis in supercells, researchers have shown that wind patterns in the lowest 1 kilometer of a storm may play a major role in forming twisters.

17 Jan 2017

Busy as a bee: New species of bee quarries into sandstone

Researchers have discovered five nesting sites of a new species of bee (Anthophora pueblo) that prefers to make its home in sandstone. The newly discovered nests are located in natural formations as well as Ancestral Puebloan sandstone cliff dwellings in the southwestern U.S.

12 Jan 2017

How to hide a dinosaur

Analysis of a finely preserved fossil dinosaur from China has revealed the animal’s erstwhile camouflage. It appears that the meter-high Early Cretaceous ceratopsid Psittacosaurus was light-colored on its underside and dark on top, a pattern known as countershading that may hint that the small herbivore lived in a dense forest environment.

 
11 Jan 2017

Supernova explosion detected in Early Pleistocene sediments

When a massive star comes to the end of its life cycle, it goes out with a spectacular bang known as a supernova. Only three of these events have been observed in the Milky Way in the past 1,000 years. Evidence for older explosions can be detected in the form of rare elements found on Earth that are only produced by such explosions.

10 Jan 2017

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